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Had I as many sons as I have hairs,
Shakspeare has done well in taking this incident; the death of young Siward is related by the English Chronicles.
Following Holinshed, Shakspeare gives the crown to Malcolm immediately after the death of Macbeth; and, certainly, several English historians affirm that Siward placed the young prince on the throne, by order of our Edward, the Confessor. But Pinkerton doubts whether the English king interfered at all; and ascribes the aid given by Siward to his family connection with Malcolm. He says, moreover, that Malcolm did not immediately succeed Macbeth, but that Lulach, who was in some way nearly related to the usurper, reigned for four months; and that there was afterwards an interregnum of a year and a half before Malcolm III. ascended the throne: in this interval Siward died.*
This Scottish author is anxious to show that the Scots got rid of Macbeth by the assistance of Siward's forces, but without any interference on the part of the English government.
I cannot decide this point. Florence of Worcester, and the Chronicle of Mailros, both state that Siward's proceedings were "by the command of the king." The Saxon Chronicle leaves room for Pinkerton's conjecture:—
"1054. This year went Earl Siward with a large army against Scotland, consisting both of ships and land forces ; and, engaging with the Scots, he put to flight the king, Macbeth; slew all the best of the land, and led thence much spoil, such as no man before obtained. Many fell also on his side, both Danish and English, even his own son Osborn, and his sister's son Siward, and many of his houseearls, and also of the king's, there were slain that day, which was called the day of the Seven Sleepers."*
I cannot find good authority for the accession and short reign of Lulach ;-}- Andrew Wyntown says nothing about him. The Chronicle of Mailros, which mentions \ Malcolm's being placed on the throne by Siward in 1054, mentions him again in 1056 as succeeding to the throne by hereditary right, and reigning thirtyseven years. As the same authority says that he was slain in 1093, it would appear that the
* Ingram's Saxon Chron., p. 242. -J- According to Lord Hailes, this was a nickname ; it signifies a fool. % Gale, i. 156.
reign commenced at this second period, and that Siward did not succeed in establishing him fairly upon the throne after the death of Macbeth.
Fordun, too, says that the reward of his friends, by promotion to a new title— "My thanes and kinsmen
Henceforth be Earls, the first that ever Scotland
In such an honour nam'd," is from Holinshed; but the fact is denied.*
"This play," says Johnson, f "is deservedly celebrated for the propriety of its fictions, and solemnity, grandeur, and variety of its action, but it has no nice discrimination of character, the events are too great to admit the influence of particular dispositions, and the cause of the action necessarily determines the conduct of the agents. The danger of ambition is well described, and I know not whether it may not be said in defence of some parts which now seem improbable, that in Shakspeare's time it was necessary to warn credulity against vain and illusive predictions. The passions are directed to their true end. Lady Macbeth is merely detested, and though the courage of Macbeth preserves some esteem, yet every reader rejoices at his fall."
Macbeth is certainly one of the most popular
* See note on Buchanan, 1752, p. 166,
of Shakspeare's plays, and perhaps it is so because the interest and strength of the play is concentrated. An audience thinks little of any personage, except Macbeth and his wife; and in them there is assuredly a sufficient discrimination of character. To Johnson's observation on Lady Macbeth, and the contrary opinion of Mrs. Jameson, I have referred already.* I agree with this lady,-f- whose enthusiasm for Shakspeare and for her own sex, are nearly equal, that Shakspeare, who formed the character of Lady Macbeth upon a slight hint in the Chronicle, did not mean to paint a woman entirely unsexed; even in passages the most revoltingly criminal and cruel, there are indications of womanly feeling; but that she excites our sympathy, I still deny: nor would Shakspeare's work be so admirable, if such abominable iniquity were made to appear tolerable. Mrs. Jameson commends Hazlitt's notice of Lady Macbeth, but thinks it still too harsh. Surely, his touch is quite sufficiently light for the subject.
"The magnitude of her resolution almost covers the magnitude of her guilt. She is a great had woman whom we hate, hut whom we fear more than
• P. 57, and also p. 183.
t See the Charact., ii. 298. I do not quote them partially, because I wish them to be read in the original.
we hate. She doth not excite our loathing and abhorrence like Regan and Gonerill. She is only wicked to gain a great end, and is, perhaps, more distinguished by her commanding presence of mind, and inexorable self-will, which do not suffer her to be diverted from a bad purpose when once formed, by weak and womanly regrets, than by the hardness of her heart, or want of natural affection."*
Much controversy has been expended on the character of Macbeth himself. It has been said, truly, that he is not the deliberate and reckless villain which Richard III. is painted by Shakspeare; but it is added, that he is not essentially a brave man. The late John Kemble, as I conceive, triumphantly refuted this opinion, which was published by a Mr.Whateley, and espoused by Steevens.-f- It is not, or certainly it was not a derogation from a man's personal bravery, that he was appalled by the prophecies of a witch; even in this age, one who believed a communication to be preternatural, would be allowed to be awed by it, though he might hold a cannonball in contempt. Kemble styles this the noblest of tragedies, and it is natural that he
* Characters of Shakspeare's Plays, p. 18.
t See Remarks on some of the Characters of Shaksspeare, 1785. — Macbeth and Richard III., by J. P. Kemble, 1817; and Steevens's note inBoswell.